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'This film inspires you to embrace your imagination and let it run wild'

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made encourages each of us to embrace our uniqueness and creativity, says actress Ophelia Lovibond. She tells Gemma Dunn of her joy at starring in Tom McCarthy's Disney+ venture

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Working mum: Ophelia Lovibond in Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Working mum: Ophelia Lovibond in Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

With Winslow Fegley

With Winslow Fegley

With Kyle Bornheimer

With Kyle Bornheimer

Starting young: Ophelia made her first television appearance aged 12

Starting young: Ophelia made her first television appearance aged 12

Getty Images

Working mum: Ophelia Lovibond in Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made

Dyed purple hair, fake tattoos... Ophelia Lovibond certainly went against type for her latest role. The actress, known for playing hard-working PA Izzy Gould in the BBC satire W1A, channels her wild side as an overburdened single mother in the Disney+ original film Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made.

Directed by award-winning film-maker Tom McCarthy, the comedy, based on Stephan Pastis's best-selling book of the same name, follows the hilarious exploits of deadpan hero Timmy, who, along with his 1,500lb polar bear partner Total, operates a Portland detective agency.

Played by newcomer Winslow Fegley, oddball Timmy must navigate the world of adults around him, including his mother Patty (Lovibond), her well-meaning boyfriend (Kyle Bornheimer), his teacher/nemesis (Wallace Shawn) and a school-mandated guidance counsellor (Craig Robinson).

"The script was unlike anything else I'd read and, even though it was described as being for children, I genuinely enjoyed it. It really made me laugh," says Lovibond (34).

"The character of Timmy is so unusual - he just captures your imagination."

As for hard-working hipster Patty, who's trying to hold together a household, several jobs and at the same time allow her child to be who he is, Lovibond admits she turned to her own mother for inspiration.

"I think my mum was sort of a reference in my mind - the way she encouraged us all to be really creative and imaginative," she recently told Yahoo Movies, having grown up in London in a single-parent family.

"She'd take us for a day at the park for a picnic and we'd just have the best day because we'd come up with all sorts of different games and things.

"I think all of that was in there subconsciously."

Today, the actress remembers having her very own imaginary friend, much like Timmy's gigantic bear. "It was a fly I very imaginatively called Fly, so that didn't bode well," she says with a laugh.

"But I was always off on adventures. I was a very social child.

"I liked playing with other kids, but I was equally happy on my own, nattering away to myself. I think it was no surprise to my mum that I became an actress."

From a young age Lovibond had her sights set on a career in the spotlight, first attending a local drama group called Young Blood, through which she appeared in various amateur and professional productions, and later landing her first TV appearance aged 12 in the Channel 4 comedy series The Wilsons.

These days she's better known for her turn in the aforementioned W1A, John Morton's follow-up to the Bafta-winning comedy series Twenty Twelve; her portrayal of Nick Frost's hippy girlfriend in the Sky Atlantic comedy series Mr Sloane; and for Sherlock's new protege Kitty Winters in the US TV show Elementary.

That's in addition to a blossoming theatre career, plus picking up various film credits spanning from the Marvel blockbuster Guardians Of The Galaxy to a cameo in the Elton John musical fantasy Rocketman.

But Timmy Failure's Patty is one of her more unique parts.

"Each tattoo has a story behind it," she says of her character's look.

"Like there's one that hasn't been coloured in because she got it and then Timmy came along and she had no money to have it finished.

"But my God, yeah, (this unleashed my wilder side).

"When we were filming there's a bit where we go round smashing up boxes.

"At one point I just thought, 'I have such a weird job. I am just being paid to swing a baseball bat and scream at the top of my lungs'.

"It couldn't be more different from W1A, where with everything you think it and the camera picks it up.

"Whereas in this, (I was) covered in tattoos, had purple hair and was stomping around. I loved indulging that."

The relationship between Patty and Timmy was heart-warming too, Lovibond stresses, describing their union as "sort of team-mates". "She's not condescending and she's quite candid with him," she elaborates, remembering her own immediate affinity with Fegley off screen.

"She protects him as much as a mum would want to protect their child from money worries, but she doesn't lie to him either.

"It's a really sweet relationship. Equally, the fact that he really wants to make a success of his detective agency so he can help his mum pay her bills (shows) that it's very full of love." And how about working with Oscar-winning director Tom McCarthy?

"I loved Spotlight. I've seen that movie so many times, so when I saw that he would be directing in, I was like, 'Wow'," says Lovibond, who recently featured in Mae Martin's comedy series Feel Good.

"I really loved working with him. He's so specific in his direction. He really hones in on how he wants the story to be told and that's so satisfying because that's what you want to do - tell the story the best way you can."

As for the message, it's about encouraging imagination.

"The fact that Timmy's imagination conjures up his friend, the polar bear who keeps him company when his dad leaves, and he's quite an unusual kid, (sends out) the message to embrace your imagination, cultivate it and let it run wild," she says.

"What's nice about this film is that it's not patronising and it doesn't feel like a goofy kid's film".

"There's a place for those and I love them, but it feels bigger than that.

"It's a message that adults can listen to as well - to embrace your creative side, embrace your uniqueness.

"Don't allow someone to tell you that you should be normal and hide your personality under a bushel.

"Indulge your imagination - you don't know where it might lead."

Timmy Failure: Mistakes Were Made is available to stream on Disney+ now

Belfast Telegraph